Struggling Flashes can’t overcome slow start in loss to Ball State

Megan Carter shoots a layup against Ball State. Carter finished with seven points in a 79-58 loss on Jan. 20, 2018.

Cameron Hoover

It’s a story Kent State (9-10, 2-5 Mid-American Conference) has heard all too often this season:

Unforced turnovers and poor three-point shooting sunk the Flashes again as the team dropped its third straight conference game to Ball State (15-3, 4-3 MAC), 79-58.

Kent State entered Saturday’s contest with the second-most turnovers in the MAC (314), and the team’s sloppy play continued against the Cardinals. The Flashes turned the ball over 22 times, marking the seventh time this season the team had 20 or more giveaways.

Four Flashes finished the game with three turnovers or more. Ball State scored 29 points off Kent State giveaways and held a 26-2 advantage in fast break points.

“You’ve got to read defenses,” coach Todd Starkey said. “We don’t want to try to force the ball. It’s stuff we’re coaching every day. They just get a little frustrated and try to make some plays that aren’t there. … The preventable ones are the ones we’ve got to get rid of.”

Ball State started the game on fire, shooting 16-for-29 (55.2 percent) from the field and 8-for-13 (61.5 percent) from three-point range in the first half to jump out to a 49-31 lead at the break.

The Flashes showed signs of life early in the second half, cutting the lead down to 12 with 6:13 left in the third quarter, but had trouble mounting any serious comeback, due in large part to senior forward Jordan Korinek’s foul trouble.

Korinek, the team’s leading scorer, picked up her third foul with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter and her fourth just four minutes later. With Korinek one foul away from disqualification, she was forced to sit for large portions of the fourth quarter.

“It impacted (the game) in a big way,” Starkey said. “(Jordan’s) obviously our go-to player, and when she’s on the bench, it changes our offensive flow. I think with the way we defended in the second half, if we had Jordan the whole time, … I think we could’ve made it interesting.”

Kent State didn’t get close again, shooting 18.8 percent from the floor, including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc and 2-for-6 from the free-throw line, in the fourth quarter. The 21-point loss is Kent State’s second-largest margin of defeat this season, only lower than the team’s 25-point loss to Stanford earlier in the season.

Despite only playing 24 minutes, Korinek still led the Flashes with 18 points on 8-for-16 shooting, adding six rebounds. Forward McKenna Stephens, a graduate student, added 11 points, all in the first half, and four assists.

Sophomore guard Ali Poole chipped in with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists, while junior guard Alexa Golden pulled in eight rebounds.

Ball State guard Carmen Grande’s speed gave the Kent State defense fits all game; the junior guard, who leads the MAC with 9.6 assists per game, led the Cardinals with 15 points and 10 assists, her seventh double-double of the season. Grande has now had over 10 assists in four consecutive games.

“They’ve got a phenomenal point guard,” Starkey said of Grande. “She’s as good as most of the point guards we faced in the Power Five when I was at Indiana. If you don’t limit her angles, she takes advantage of you.”

Senior guard Frannie Frazier also scored 15 points for Ball State, adding four rebounds and five steals. Senior forward Destiny Washington and junior guard Jasmin Samz scored 12 points each, while leading scorer Moriah Monaco finished with 10 points.

Kent State has lost three games in a row by an average of 11.7 points per game. The loss to Ball State leaves the Flashes’ record at 9-10, marking the first time the team has dipped below .500 this season.

The Flashes will look for a desperately needed win at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Savage Arena as they take on Toledo (13-6, 4-3 MAC).

“There’s no magic speech you can give them,” Starkey said. “Toledo’s not going to take it easy on us. It’s one of the toughest places to play in the league. … It’s not a really complicated gameplan at this point.

“I’ll tell them to just keep fighting.”

Cameron Hoover is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].